II. Horse Thieves

by Sevenstars

Stuart launched upon his lecture, illustrating it with complete truth. All tribes believed in real created things that possessed evil powers. The Kiowa lived in great fear of owls, and other nations feared other things, such as ghosts and thunder. The Shoshoni believed that sickness was caused by a ghost which had entered the patient´s body, and which must be extracted by a doctor, following considerable ritual. Ute doctors often drove evil spirits away by stretching the patient out on the ground and gashing him with an eagle claw from head to heel, while a group of men sang an incantation in chorus. In every Indian group the practise of treating disease through the sucking out of a foreign object--a stick, a worm, a bit of bone--was found; such objects were assumed to have entered the sufferer´s body through chance or witchcraft. All the more serious diseases which the Indians didn´t comprehend, and for which they had no medical treatment, were believed to have been caused by evil spirits; in this category would naturally be included those diseases like measles and smallpox which had been introduced by the white man. “If the Arapaho look far back upon their winter count,” Stuart observed, “they will see that there was a time when these sicknesses were unknown among them. They will see, indeed, that the sicknesses came with, or only shortly before, the white man. Thus, the evil spirits that cause them must be part of the white man´s world, and perhaps even under his command.”

The False Face Society of the Seneca performed at the new-year and green-corn ceremonies each year to drive out the effects of witches and disease. The most dreaded antisocial actions were those performed by witches in league with the Evil Spirit. Anyone could conceivably assume the form of an animal, bird, or reptile in his desire to do evil. But witches were difficult to detect because they transformed themselves into inanimate objects at will. They were thought to have a society with regular initiations which involved killing one´s closest friend by supernatural means. Anyone who saw a witch practising was free to kill him, though they were also formally tried before the council, and proof of guilt was sought by the prosecuting parties; if it was convincing, the defendants were traditionally executed by beating them on the head with a club or hammer, although a witch who confessed and promised to reform would be freed. The Iroquois chief Red Jacket in one oration pictured the horrors of Salem witchcraft in favorable contrast to that of the Indian, but declared that each race was sincere and firm in its belief that such cruel steps were necessary. Yet the ordinary Iroquois might occasionally resort to sorcery to right wrongs inflicted upon him by others. Although it was considered deplorable to nurse a grudge until the opportunity arose to even the score--whether by witchcraft or ambush--all acknowledged that it sometimes occurred. Among the Huron, too, sorcerers were killed.

The tribes of the southeastern woodlands were preoccupied with witchcraft, chiefly as the incursions of thoroughly evil human beings who wanted to steal the time of sick people to extend their own lives. The Cherokee myth regarding the origin of corn mentioned a belief in witchcraft, in retaliation for which the believers plotted to kill the person they suspected. A Creek doctor who lost a patient was suspected of witchcraft and might himself be killed by the relatives of the deceased.

The Basin peoples were fearful of sorcery too, and considered it a serious crime, ranking with wife- stealing--for women were often scarce. Fevers and contagious diseases were believed to result from the intrusion into the body of foreign matter, which might occur as the outcome of sorcery inflicted by an unfriendly shaman. Shamans could also steal a person´s spirit, though a more powerful shaman could recover it, curing the “spirit illness” which resulted. Magical poisoning was a form of contagious magic engaged in only by lay women--neither men nor female shamans. A lock of hair, a nail paring, or a bit of the victim´s clothing would be ground up in a witches´ mixture of a certain root, red paint, the body of a bat, or a bit of bone from a corpse, while the name of the victim and his desired fate was muttered. The stuff was then placed in his food or tossed on the dirtiest refuse heap in the vicinity, soon after which he would wither away or break out in sores all over his body. Even a shaman found such a case difficult to cure.

The Californian Indians feared shamans in direct proportion to the amount of power they held: the greater the power, the more fear. Witches were evil shamans, and any ill fortune or fear could raise suspicions of witchcraft. A witch might be an agent of an enemy tribe, trying to weaken one´s own people so they could ultimately be defeated. Or he could be a kinsman motivated by jealousy or envy. Witches could act in the employ of an enemy, for base gain, or out of sheer evil, nothing being unthinkable to them. They acquired their malignant power by purchase or special knowledge and used it to kill other individuals; if the possessor of such a power went out at night, the power appeared as sparks or as a bluish light. It could be placed on the end of a miniature arrow and shot at the victim´s home by a small bow, causing him to die if not treated by a shaman. Witchcraft was often diagnosed when a child behaved in an incorrect manner, which was said to be the result of an older woman in its family attempting witchcraft against another. People accused of witchcraft could be tortured, either to purify them of their evil or as an ordeal to test whether they were in fact witches. Yet sorcery had its legitimate place in tribal life too: when a person´s rights were violated and just compensation couldn´t be obtained by legal means, his only alternative was to turn to a sorcerer. These were usually men, and they charged a fee that could be met only by the aristocrats of the tribe. The sorcerer was generally either of a high social standing or attempting to achieve it; he owned two to twelve “poisons” that ranged in effectiveness from very mild to lethal, each strength being represented by a different miniature arrow. The mildest form produced a headache or a cold, the middle level chest pains that resulted in the victim´s confinement; from the eighth level upward all were lethal. The force of the poison must be used at least once a month or it would harm his children--or himself if he were childless.

Among the whaling tribes of the Northwest, too, the shaman was powerful and feared, and sometimes was killed on suspicion of sorcery. Certain secret societies were believed to be made up of sorcerers, and they sometimes engaged in witchcraft against a non-member to make him sick, so they could collect a fee for curing him. Witchcraft was most often performed by obtaining an item intimately associated with the victim and using it in a representation of him in the form desired. If a person became ill, the cause was attributed to sorcery, and the offender was named by the curing shaman. Usually this was a woman, child, or slave, and was tortured to extract a confession, or even killed if none was forthcoming. And the Tlingit believed in witches, seemingly ordinary men and women who possessed the power to bring disease and death. They were a constant threat and were particularly inclined to obtaining something closely associated with the victim, such as a hair or a fingernail, and burying it near a grave house, which caused him to promptly become ill and perhaps die. Witches practised their evil craft in secret, striking down those who displeased them. It was the task of the shaman to neutralize the witches' evil power and point them out for possible punishment.

The Winnebago of the Great Lakes believed in a class of people they called bear-walkers, specially gifted individuals who were adepts in the practise of black magic; the name came from their power of transforming themselves into bears and wild turkeys. They would ride through the air at night until they came to the lodge of someone they desired to kill. If all the openings of the lodge weren´t properly closed and protected and if the occupants hadn´t in early life provided themselves with all kinds of medicines to counteract the bear- walker´s power, they were lost. Fortunately for the community these people expended most of their iniquitous energy in fighting one another. Among the Fox tribe, witches most often came from the Bear clan, and learned their skills from other witches, though the malevolent power itself was obtained in a vision quest. They could take the form of bears or snakes, and their nearness at night was indicated by flashes of light or a hissing sound as they passed. Their evil power took diverse forms: death from no apparent cause, the swelling of some part of the body. Another important use of sorcery was love magic, which if properly employed led to the irresistible attractiveness of the user; a nonresponding victim would be driven to insanity and eventual suicide. But shamans, who obtained the power to cure from a dream, could use certain techniques to turn the malevolent power back upon the witch. The Canadian Ojibwa, it was said, had never been known to murder each other physically, but they practised witchcraft to that end: if a person felt he had been wronged by another, he attempted to injure or kill the offender by sorcery.

Of the Plains people, the Crow-- long-time foes of the Arapaho--had many kinds of medicine bundles, one of which was the witchcraft or revenge type. It was rare, and great secrecy surrounded its use, but it was pressed into service to do harm to the personal enemies of its owner. Ordinary people among the Crow sometimes resorted to sorcery to settle grudges against their fellow-tribesmen by supernatural means, though this was relatively uncommon. One technique was to draw the figure of an antagonist along a riverbank near the water´s edge. Incense was burned and smoke blown toward the figure. As the water washed it away, the victim was expected to die. Other magical practises led to lifelong disabilities. The only sure safeguard against sorcery was for the victim to have more powerful supernaturals working in his behalf. And some Plains warriors prepared an evil charm by placing rattlesnake heads on hot coals in a hole in the ground and covering them with the fresh liver and gall of a wild animal. During the subsequent process of steaming, the liver absorbed the poison from the heads. It was carefully preserved in a little buckskin bag, and when its owner wore it he could, by looking intently at his victim and murmuring evil incantations, effect his death.

Among many desert-dwelling hunter- gatherers, evil medicine men could employ for witchcraft the power of dissatisfied souls, dead people without family connections or improperly buried, which wandered about causing bad dreams and illness. The Mohave believed that a shaman could kill people by witchcraft and imprison their souls as slaves. To the Pueblo and Pima, peaceful farmers who openly stated that they hated war, the nomadic tribes like the Apache and Yuma who raided them for corn and women and seemed to thrive on battle were felt to be inhuman--nations of sorcerers. The warriors of the sedentaries had the duty of fighting witches. Sometimes fear of witchcraft caused hostilities between pueblos despite the attempts of the Spanish, and later Anglo, authorities to impose interpueblo peace. Evil supernatural power levelled against one pueblo by another could precipitate an armed clash between them--a phenomenon also seen in California. All Pueblos were convinced of the existence of evil witches. Certain deserted localities were called “witches´ kivas,” and when they glowed with an unearthly blue light at night, the witches were holding their meetings there. Sometimes entire villages were believed to be populated by witches; if you stepped on their earth, they could “get” you. At Zuñi, the parents of unruly children would threaten that a witch would come and get them. The power of a known witch could be to some extent negated by avoidance. But the witch, hiding in the dark, might catch a victim on the way to visit a neighbor or relieve himself. In that case, the victim was ridden like a horse to the witches´ kiva and there forced to become one of the coven. His only chance for escape lay in finding someone with healing power who could and would drive out the evil spirit and set him free. For this reason, Pueblo Indians seldom went out at night. They also shunned authority; anyone ambitious to secure a high office was in danger of being persecuted for being a sorcerer. People sometimes feared they might themselves be witches without being aware of the fact. To display tension, suspicion, anxiety, hostility, fear, or ambition could lead to being bewitched or accused of witchcraft. On the other hand, the Pueblo also had good witches to whom they could turn for protection in the physical world. The village council decided the fate of citizens accused of criminal witchcraft.

Perhaps the most fixated upon witchcraft were the Navajo, who divided it into several distinct categories: Witchery Way or witchcraft proper, sorcery, wizardry, and “frenzy witchcraft.” Its typical victim was one who had offended a witch, however unknowingly--which compounded the eeriness of the matter: how can innocent people ever know when they have offended the wicked? Since sickness or misfortune could not be purely accidental, the more likely explanation was a malevolent spiritual force, and among every group of Navajos there were certain individuals who were suspected and feared. Witches were defined as living Earth Surface men and women who practised their evil craft for personal gain. Anyone might become a witch, for there were few qualifications other than a strong stomach, greed, and envy or hatred of persons more fortunate than oneself. Most of those with whom witchcraft was associated tended to be marginal, outcast people. The assumption was that, as marginal, they were likely to hold grudges. If they built up occult powers, they might easily turn them to bad account, unleashing them to hurt their enemies. Or they might put their evil powers out for hire, serving “normal” people who had run afoul of a neighbor or suffered an injury and wanted revenge. Witches were malevolent men and women who, operating chiefly at night, might steal property or use ritual means to cause illness and death. Usually they combined a desire for vengeance with a thirst for wealth, which they could easily gain by robbing a grave, an act abhorrent to their normal, death-fearing tribesfolk. Some, called “human wolves,” were thought to wear the hides of wolves as disguises. The most serious form of evil magic was the Witchery Way, of which male practitioners were far more numerous than females; their skills were usually learned from an older relative, and the initiation was said to include killing a brother or sister. Witches gained wealth by robbing graves or fee- splitting--one of a team of witches made a person ill, the other cured him and collected the fee, and they shared it. They were thought to roam at night in animal form, particularly as wolves, coyotes, bears, and owls; they met to plan and perform rites to kill or injure people, to have intercourse with dead women, to initiate new members, and to practise cannibalism and incest. Murder and necrophilia furnished witches with their bad medicine; if a victim were female, they would not only bring about her death, but would abuse even her corpse, having sex with it. Their evil could be cured by catching the witch and obtaining his confession, in which case the victim would gradually improve and the witch himself would die within the year from the same symptoms that had afflicted him. If the suspect refused to confess, he was usually killed. Prayer ceremonials or chants were also used to counteract all kinds of witchcraft.

The classic Witchery Way technique required the witch to surreptitiously feed his victim “corpse poison,” a pollen-like substance made from the flesh and brittle bones of the dead, preferably that of dead children, with twins being particularly effective. This was ground into powder and given in food or tobacco, furtively blown into the victim´s face at some crowded gathering, spread on his blanket, or dropped into his hogan through the smokehole. Victims of witchcraft commonly contracted lockjaw, wasted away, or suffered bouts of pain or fainting fits. Having caused his victim´s death, the witch would then contrive to seize his crops, livestock, and other property. Many individuals were suspected as witches, and occasionally “witch killings” were carried out. Various substances, such as certain plants, were used as protection against them. But only a medicine man could hope to combat the most serious cases, which he did by the Evil Way chant or Enemy Way ceremony, and if a person was convinced that he was ill as a result of having been bewitched, he would pay for one of these. The latter, if successful, was believed to cause the death of the witch before long. But like all the Navajo chants, it had potential to harm rather than help if a mistake were made by the participants.

Sorcery was considered a branch of witchery in Navajo belief, in that sorcerers attended the witches´ sabbaths, but they were the less violent of the two, and used different techniques. Sorcerers were usually also shamans, and their methods were more subtle; they especially tended to make a person ill and then charge an exorbitant price to treat him. The sorcerer usually performed his evil by contagious magic and by incantation or spell. Like the Tlingit witch, he might obtain a bit of his victim´s hair, fingernails, excretions, or clothing, bury it in a grave or with something taken from a grave, and chant a spell over it. If he knew the victim´s secret name, he could cast an even stronger spell. He might also make an “evil-wishing” sand painting, or, rarely, mold and carve an image of the victim and injure it. His victims could be cured by recovery of the objects used as a focus and by the smoke of the Game Way ceremony. Wizardry was the process of magically shooting into the victim an “arrow”--a small bit of bone, stone, quill, ashes, or charcoal; wizards were almost exclusively old men, but they didn't assume animal form or attend the witches´ sabbath. It was cured by the Sucking Way, practitioners of which were usually considered to be wizards themselves, or in league with them.

The Navajo shared much of their witch belief with their kin, the Apache. Both groups imaged the witch as the servant of bad spirits, eager to threaten and destroy the prosperity the people had garnered through the livestock--horses and burros, mules, goats and sheep--they had acquired from the Pueblos and the Spanish. Unlike the Pueblo, they had no “good” witches, only “curing doctors” who set their fees high and wouldn´t work without advance payment. Witches had a fertile field of imagination in which to develop fear and control their neighbors through a kind of spiritual blackmail, for if identified they could be bought off. Apache witches were generally warped shamans, who, with their intimate connection to the spirit world, could generate untold harm if they chose to use their powers maliciously. A shaman-turned-sorcerer could strike down his victims with a mumbled phrase or even a single dark glance. Since he worked his evil in secret, he was difficult to ferret out. Any person who dressed oddly or spoke strange words became suspect. So did anyone caught in the crime of incest. Once exposed, the witch faced a slow and painful death, often being suspended by the wrists over a fire.

Stuart recounted all this to his fascinated and revolted Arapaho listeners, showing them clearly how many tribes, in different environments, held or had held witchcraft beliefs, how many reasons there might be for a witch to work his evil, and how he might acquire and employ his powers. “As the Arapaho know,” he said, “all religious knowledge and power is part of a greater one, too great to be understood by any one people or group; no one can see more than some part of its wonder. Thus it is with witchcraft; each of the beliefs I have told you about holds some part of the truth, but not all of it. This I know because among the white man, too, witches have been known. Long ago, when we lived across the great salt water, we were much troubled by them. They were people with malevolent minds, who often bound to their service powerful evil spirits. They got their powers from the evil Man-Below, who wished to use them as his tools to fight against the good powers, Man-Above and the rest, who are his enemies. Some were content to act merely from malice or greed, but others were truly evil, and joined the battle willingly. Once we saw what they were about, we set to work to destroy them. But the cleverest and most powerful of them were able to escape us, and now it has been so many years since that time that most white people no longer believe in them. They do not understand that the witches who survived found young pupils of similar mind and passed on their knowledge to them, and taught them how to conceal themselves and make it appear that they had no power any greater than ordinary people did. They learned to work, not only in secret as had always been their custom, but with great subtlety and care, so no one would guess that it was they who were responsible for what had happened.”

Most Indian spirits were imaged as kindly, or at worst neutral. Witches and evil medicine men could get their help in doing evil, but this wasn´t by the wish of the spirit involved: spirits, by their own free will, did no harm so long as their taboos were observed and the balance of nature maintained. That meant man must not unduly exploit the balance of Mother Nature, must take no more than he needed from animal or plant and must give back thanks and respect. The white man´s wholesale exploitation of natural resources seemed shocking. “Clearly, then,” Stuart said, “although there are many good and honorable white men, there must be many among them in positions of power who are neither. They have turned their people from the right road, the road the Indian follows, and that is why there has been so much trouble between the two peoples. Like the witches of California, they strive to weaken the Indian so he can ultimately be defeated; for this reason they have bound to their service the evil spirits that cause the new sicknesses, and send them to wreak havoc in Indian lodges. And some of these bad people do not choose to take leadership roles, but rather to better their own condition through the evil power they have gained. They seek to get wealth, or to settle the score for old offenses, or to otherwise improve their power and status.

“You have heard of the woman Buffalo Rider has seen and desires to court, and of the man with the strange green eyes who, without so much as speaking a word to him, made it clear to him that he must leave her alone. This man is known to me also. Before the leaves were on the trees, he came to my village and offered to play a gambling game with me. He was very skilled and seemed to be lucky, as any gambler may, and I wished to regain what I had lost to him, which forced me to place more and more of my possessions at stake.” Indians being devoted gamblers themselves would, he knew, comprehend this. “It was not until I had staked my lodge and he had won it from me that I realized I dealt with a witch, such as I have told you about. By his power he had manipulated the counters we used and caused them to fall in his favor, while blinding me to what he did. Yet there were signs which a clever man could see and know. Buffalo Rider has spoken of the way he dresses, not like most white men, and I can testify that his words are often strange. This made me think of the ways in which the Apaches know a witch, and knowing as I did that they had a part of the truth, I slowly came to see all of it. I knew that my power was not equal to his, and so I had no choice but to leave him in possession. I hoped that, having nothing to hold him in this country, he would be content to sell my lodge back to me, or perhaps to some other person from whom I could then regain it.

“But this he did not do. He saw that the ownership of my lodge could bring him wealth. He saw, too, the woman of whom Buffalo Rider has spoken, and resolved to make her his. Like the witches of the Fox people, one of his powers is that of love medicine, but as with all white witches of today, it is very subtle. He does not use it to make himself irresistible to all women, but to bring to his bed one special one whom he desires.”

Buffalo Rider spoke up, his tone troubled. “But the woman wears a Sun-cross like mine, and the Sun is a good power. How can a person protected by it become the victim of a witch?”

Stuart had anticipated that. “She does not know he is a witch. As I have told you, the witches who survived the time-long-ago when the white man set out to destroy them were the cleverest, the strongest, and the most cunning of their kind. These traits they taught to their pupils, so that now the white witches know so well how to hide what they do that very few people see them for what they are. Even the Sun´s power can be undermined by evil if its bearer has no reason to guess what is being brought to bear against it. And, as you must realize, the white witches have used the time of their concealment to learn even stronger spells than they knew in the past days; if they had not, they would never have gained such power over all their people as to be able to turn them away from the right road and move them to the conquest and destruction of the Indian. I myself did not understand these things until I was grown to manhood; by learning of the beliefs of the Indian regarding witchcraft, I came to see the error into which my people had fallen. But I do not have the power to save them from it; I can only strive to combat any single witch I encounter. I cannot even call others of my people to my aid, because, as I have told you, the white witches have become so careful and clever that even our priests have lost belief in them, and forgotten the ways of fighting and destroying them. If I attempted to deal in the traditional manner with the witch who won my lodge from me, even the white chief at Fort Sedgwick, Charging Eagle, whom all of Crop-Eared Wolf´s band know to be honest and brave, and whose duty it is to protect the whites who live in his country, would believe that I was the one performing a criminal act. And so, being warned, I resolved to do as the Pueblo would do, and avoid the witch as best I could, offering him no opportunity to do me further injury. But now that I know of Buffalo Rider´s interest in the woman the witch desires, I see that he is also a threat to my friends the Arapaho, and this I wish to prevent. For a witch does not survive by permitting possible enemies to prosper and perhaps gain the strength to resist him. If he sees, as the green-eyed one has surely seen, that he has a rival, he will take steps to prevent that rival from acting against him. Even if Buffalo Rider were to refrain from all attempts to court the woman he has seen, it would not mean he would be safe: the green-eyed one might decide to make a spell that would kill him, or enslave his spirit. Also, if he can persuade the woman to his bed, he will be able to turn her Sun-power to his own use, and gain great strength, not only here but among all other white witches. He must be defeated now, before he becomes more powerful than he already is.”

“How is this to be done, brother?” asked Bear Song.

“The Arapaho have one great advantage in this matter,” said James. “For all his power--and it is great--the witch in my lodge is aware that most of his people do not believe in his kind any more. He does not know that I have recognized him for what he is, nor does he have any reason to suspect that I have shared my knowledge with my friends. If it were merely a question of their keeping out from under his eye, it would not be so difficult to do. Sooner or later he will gather to himself enough wealth and power that my village will no longer give him the scope to carry out his desires, and he will go somewhere else, to some larger village, where there are more people against whom he may work his evil, and greater opportunities to carry out the programs of conquest and domination that all white witches have set for themselves. But I do not need to hear Buffalo Rider say the words to know how angry he is at the thought that the Sun, which gave him his power, may find some of its own power turned against the good. It is for this very reason, as much as to protect themselves, that the whites of the time- long-ago made war against the witches. Now the Arapaho, whose great chiefs say they are the friends of the whites, can help both our peoples by destroying the witch who is in their country.

“No doubt the red man is well suited to combat his own witches, who spring from the same tribe as himself,” James proceeded. “But a white witch must be dealt with in the white man´s way, because his powers and intentions are not the same as those of the Indian witch. You have heard me speak of the Seneca witches and how those who confessed and promised to reform would be spared death. When dealing with white witches, this option does not exist. Such is their evil that they neither can nor will remain true to such a word even if they give it. They can only be stopped by being killed, and the land purified of their bad power.

“When the Indian wishes to receive the daily guidance he knows the spirits desire to bestow on him, he must prepare himself adequately. He purifies himself so that he will be fit to abide in a constant relationship with the Great One-Above. Often he does this in a sweat lodge. The legends we white people tell speak of many evil creatures, and each is vulnerable to a certain kind of harm, which is always effective in killing it and keeping safe the person who fights it. Some peoples of whom we know believe fire to be a great purifier. It consumes all things, and is a piece of the bright sun, without which nothing could live. Therefore it is holy, and cannot be used for evil. It also makes light, and thus makes it more difficult for the witch to cast his spells, since he desires secrecy in which he may hide.”

The warriors nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, this is wisdom,” Crop-Eared Wolf agreed. “What did your people-long-ago do with the witches you captured, brother? How did you destroy them and rid your society of their evil?”

James hid his smirk. “We did with them as the Arapaho people do with their enemies when they capture them. We burned them.”

A murmur went around the circle as the Indians considered the logic of this idea. “The only way I could do this,” James went on, “would be to make sure that the witch was in my lodge and unable to get out of it, and then set it afire and burn it with him in it. But then many innocent people might also be hurt or even die. This would not be a good thing. It would be better if he alone were to burn. In this, my friends the Arapaho can help me, and also help themselves. Charging Eagle will not see or know of what befalls the witch in their camp, because it is not under his eye as my village is.”

“But how shall we take the witch from your village?” one of the headmen asked. “Although we are at peace with your people, there are many who fear and suspect us. If they saw us making him captive, or found our sign afterward, they would try to stop us, or come after us, because, as you say, they do not know what he is, and would not believe us even if we tried to explain.”

“That is true,” James agreed. “But, as I have said, he does not realize that I know of witches, and believe in them, and know him to be one. He may guess that I would like to regain my property from him, but he has no reason to think that I might do him bodily harm. I will find a way to deliver him to my friends the Arapaho, if they will agree to destroy him as I have said. Thus I and they will both serve the good powers and our two peoples.” He played his last, shrewd card. “I know that this is not an easy thing for them to decide, because our two peoples have always been at peace. I will go back to my own lodge, with my family, and give them time to talk and smoke over everything I have said tonight. When they have made up their minds what to do, let them send someone to tell me. I ask them only to remember this one truth: a witch has no loyalty except to the Man-Below. He is the enemy of both our peoples, and if we are friends, as we have always been, then he must be our foe, and it is the duty of all of us to do whatever we can against him. If any of this council has a question to ask me, I am ready to hear it. If not, I have spoken.”

He waited, but none of the council members seemed to need further clarification. “Then my nephew and I will go,” he said, “and pray that the good powers will show the Arapaho what is the right thing for them to do. Come on, Lucas,” he added in English.

Outside the tent the two men paused to stretch and look around, locating Mountain Lamb and her children. Lucas eyed his uncle with genuine respect. “Where the hell did you ever think this up?” he demanded. “I´d never have lit on it.”

“Everything I told them about what other tribes believe was absolutely true,” Stuart asserted. “I´ve told you about trading with the Navajo and the Apache and going out to California one year and up to British Columbia another. As for tying it to Standish, about a month after he won the building from me I happened to be rereading Red Jacket´s oration on witchcraft. That reminded me of the Navajo and Apache beliefs and started me thinking about everything I´d learned over the years. I already knew I only had two possible ways of getting Standish out of the way myself: direct action--push him into a fight--or have him killed. There was too much chance of the first backfiring on me and of the second being traced back to us. But this is a wild country and if he just disappears one day, without any evidence that we´re involved in it, nobody, not even Travis, will have any excuse to come after us. I´ve cultivated these Indians for a long time. I always figured they´d be useful--maybe just as scapegoats for one of our wagon-train or Company raids. This is even better.”

“I just wish I could be there to see it happen,” Lucas growled. “Or at least that I could know he´d know we were behind it. There´s not much satisfaction in getting revenge if the man you´re getting it on doesn´t know why he´s dying.”

“Scapegoats, remember?” Stuart reminded him. “We can´t be connected with his death. Travis is too smart and too conscientious. Maybe Standish won´t know why he´s dying, but he won´t die easy, and we´ll get our own back. That should matter more.”

“Think they´ll go along?” Lucas asked, nodding back toward the tent.

“I´ve dealt with Indians for a lot of years, and I can read them about as well as anyone,” said Stuart. “Oh, they´ll have to talk it all out from every angle they can find, but I think I´ve got them convinced. All we have to do now is let them think the whole decision is theirs. Come on, it´s late, let´s find Lamb and the kids and get back up to the house.”


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